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40 years after, group demands panel report on Ugep massacre

By Chris Ochayi

ABUJA—A socio-cultural organisation, Umor Otutu, has called on the Federal Government to revisit the massacre of Ugep people of Yakur Local Government Area of Cross River State by the Nigerian Army 40 years ago and make the panel report on the atrocity public.

Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai
Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen. Tukur Buratai

Addressing newsmen in Abuja as part of plans to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the massacre on December 24, 1975, President General of the group, Pastor Ben Arikpo, regretted that 40 years after, no action had been taken on the Federal Government White Paper on the massacre.

Pastor Arikpo recalled that on that Black Wednesday, soldiers went violent on the pretext of an erroneous assumption that the people of Ugep killed a soldier serving in the army barracks. he said overran Ugep, attacked the town at midnight, killed, raped and set houses ablaze.

According to Arikpo, the official report indicated that 13 people were killed, 100 injured and 7,500 houses were burnt at the time of the massacre, adding that General Murtala Mohammed was the then military Head of State while the then Brigadier Theophilus Danjuma was the Chief of Army Staff.

At the state level, the then Col. Paul Omu was the Governor of the defunct South Eastern State while then Col Mamman Vasta was Commandant of the then 13th Infantry Brigade of Nigerian Army based in Calabar.

Arikpo said: “A panel of inquiry was set up by the then Head of State, Maj. Gen. Murtala Mohammed, headed by late Justice Okorobidu.

However, the report of the panel is yet to be made public despite the White Paper that had since been issued.”

He explained that, prior to the massacre, a soldier of the 8 Battalion in Ugep, was said to have been found dead by the road side.

“The soldiers claimed that he must have been killed by Ugep people. In reprisal, the military on the night of December 24, 1975, invaded the town in a commando-like style, chanting war songs, and killed our loved ones, raped our sisters, wives and mothers, while men were beaten, clubbed, maimed and killed in the most gruesome manner while they also set the town ablaze.”

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